Television food and beverage marketing to children in Costa Rica: current state and policy implications


To examine the frequency of television (TV) food and beverage advertisements (F&B ads) to which children (4–11 years) are likely exposed and the nutrient profile of products advertised.


TV broadcasting between September and November 2016 was recorded (288 h of children’s programming; 288 h of family programming) resulting in 8980 advertisements, of which 1862 were F&B ads. Of those, 1473 could be classified into one of the seventeen food groups, and into permitted/non-permitted according to the WHO-EU nutrient profile model. Persuasive marketing techniques used were also identified.


TV programming was recorded for four weekdays and four weekend days, between 06.00 and 00.00 hours (576 total hours), for four channels (two national and two cable), in Costa Rica.


Mean (sd) number of F&B ads/h was greater in cable than national channels (3·7 (0·4) v. 2·8 (0·4), P 0·05) and during children’s peak viewing hours (4·4 (0·4) v. 2·9 (0·3)). Of F&B ads classified with WHO-EU nutrient profile model (n 1473, 71·1 %), 91·1 % were non-permitted to be marketed to children. Categories most frequently advertised were ready-made/convenience foods (16 %), chocolates/confectionery/desserts (15 %), breakfast cereals (14 %), beverages (15 %), edible ices (9 %) and salty snacks (8 %). Non-permitted F&B ads were more likely to use promotional characters, brand benefit claims, and nutrition and health claims than permitted F&B ads.


Children watching popular TV channels in Costa Rica are exposed to a high number of unhealthy F&B ads daily. Our findings help justify the need for regulatory actions by national authorities.